2 hr. 1 min. | Rated M | Contains sex scenes, offensive language and drug u
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones, Bryce Dallas Howard
Elton John's life-story is so amazing that a perfectly straightforward biopic, featuring the great songs, in the order they were written would have been gripping enough. Instead, the story has been totally re-imagined.
Playing fast and loose with chronology, Rocketman is an out and out musical, full of sensationally choreographed numbers, the music having been reinvented for the movie by Giles Martin. Taron Egerton, in a fantastic performance, doesn't impersonate Elton John, he becomes him; he doesn't lip-sync, he sings, making the songs matter in that moment in the story.
Rocketman opens with Elton John, aged about 30, got up as an orange devil, bursting into a group therapy session, confessing to every kind of addiction, and beginning to talk about his life – a framing device that, since he's an unreliable narrator, allows every kind of freedom and fantasy in the telling.
We travel back to his childhood, his inattentive mother and unloving father, the discovery of his talent, the crucial meeting with his lyricist Bernie Taupin (winningly played by Jamie Bell), his rise to fame and riches, and falling for his first lover John Reid (nastily sexy Richard Madden), who became his manager for many years. The breakdown of that relationship contributes to the misery that takes him into rehab, bringing us back to where we started.
Just beneath the outrageousness, there's a lot of painful feeling exposed here, most of all the raw search for the love that he never had as a child.
"For as long as I can remember I've hated myself", he eventually admits. Into that hurt, he poured the creative genius that has given us so many songs (some twenty of them explored and celebrated here) – and now gives us not an inert document of that struggle but a new work of art in its own right. That's the way to do it.